10 August, 2023 9:23 AM

Graduation Lessons: La Voluntad es la Fuerza

Dr. Estela Garcia portrait with flowers on the background

Much of the Chicano/Latino/Indígena community celebrated the graduation of Dra. Estela Garcia as she exited her role as Executive Director, turning over this incredible responsibility to Gloria Romero. We shared in wishing her happiness as she began the next phase of her life. So, it was a wonderful surprise to learn the news! It is our pleasure to welcome IFR’s newest member of the Board of Directors: Dra. Estela Garcia!

If you recall, Estela planned her transition as a graduate for a year. Naturally, we were curious about the path that led her back to IFR. “When I left, I made a plan to travel. I traveled by train to the Southwest, Midwest and East Coast. I spent time with friends and met a lot of new people. My health improved and allowed me to approach a different way of living. It also allowed me to reflect on my great fortune throughout my career to work with so many great people, and appreciate how much I learned from them and how each impacted me. It allowed me to think of how I want to live my life now.”

A few years may have passed since she graduated from IFR, but this was the same thoughtful, grounded, and wise Estela we’d all come to know and love. As she spoke, it was clear that Estela’s path since graduating from IFR two years ago had been intentional and meaningful – and that she wanted her next steps to be so as well.  

“You have to take care of precious things. I’m very happy with the continuation and elevation of the organization under Gloria’s leadership. That’s part of what led me to think about being on the Board of Directors. It made me ask what more I can do for an organization I love. I thought about it for some time. I spoke to Tyrone [IFR’s Board President] and he encouraged me to consider it. So, I applied and was very happy to be well-received by the Board.”

In fact, despite the many staff, interns, board members, and clients who have walked through IFR’s doors over the year, few articulate their love for IFR as beautifully as Estela. “In such a diverse community as ours, IFR’s work stands out. We provide a legacy from prevention to treatment, a spectrum from the spiritual to behavioral to the emotional. All traditions are acceptable here. It takes many medicines. It’s a continuing learning experience because tradition and innovation are a continuum. I want to give greater visibility to IFR, to its presencia, and share what it has meant to our community.”

Her comments tap into feelings many have experienced at IFR. “Even if you don’t understand specific traditions, people always know they can come here to feel visible, affirmed, and nurtured.”

This is one of the contributions IFR uniquely provides. “People come here in pain and may experience a healing circle, smoke, an altar, or the four directions for the first time,” Estela recounts. “They leave feeling healthier, discover things about themselves they may not have known, or go deeper in understanding themselves and their spirituality.” 

Just like that, it’s as though time stood still. This was the Estela we’ve always known – the doctor of mental health, humble yet empowered, traditional in her spiritual beliefs yet fully contemporary in her understanding of the world.

But if you are fortunate to know her well enough, you recognize there are some differences from the pre-graduate Estela. This Estela still offers the same regalos that made her so effective in her previous role as Executive Director; but there’s something else. It quickly becomes clear: this Estela has a new purpose: to develop IFR’s financial resources. “

“It’s a goal for me as a board member to explore and assess the viability of an endowment for IFR. As an Executive Director, there was never enough time for me to focus on this, but now I can. We’re currently in the exploratory phase, and soon, we hope to do an assessment of its viability. We need resource options that allow us the flexibility we need to meet community needs, to go deeper, in different directions, or pursue healing solutions in areas that government doesn’t understand or appreciate. This is our community institution; keeping it robust is directly connected to the impact we can have in the community. Our impact has been great, but we know more could happen if we had the resources.”

Estela’s newest efforts – serving as a member of IFR’s Board, focusing on fund development and the feasibility of an endowment – stems from the same root: her love for IFR, and her willingness to share her extensive goodwill on IFR’s behalf. As Estela herself has said before, “la voluntad es la fuerza.”

In addition to providing great contributions as an IFR board member, you can also expect to exhibit increased evidence of another of her superpowers, specifically her great sense of humor. “Laughter is an important part of life, and part of what I bring to my work, regardless of my role. It’s a sanación.”

With love, joy, laughter, and a whole lot of voluntad, we are happy to welcome Estela to IFR’s Board of Directors.

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